Friday, September 30, 2005
Fuel Saving Techniques
The Congress on 6th September, described as 'difficult but unavoidable decision' of the government to raise petrol and diesel prices in view of the spiraling crude oil prices in the international market. According to them, government has been sensitive about the increase in burden on the consumers and has therefore not passed the entire burden to them.

Thankfully,there was no increase in kerosene and LPG prices and in actual terms price increase in petrol and diesel is much less compared to the sharp rise in oil prices globally. However, paying Rs. 50/- a liter is still turning out to be a burden on the pocket not only for the common man but also celebrities. The hike in fuel prices has forced many TOP PEOPLE to change their daily traveling means and routine.

Here are some techniques adopted by our Page 3 people, to cope with the ever-increasing petrol prices.

1. Shahrukh Khan - From now onwards instead of traveling in his Mercedes or BMW, he will be going to shootings and press conferences in his newly acquired 'Bath Tub', which will be pushed around by the 'Lux' people and his bodyguards.

2. Maliaka Sherawat - Thanks to her 'sex appeal', from now on will be seen taking 'Lift' from strangers driving poshy cars. That way she will be burning someone else's fuel.

3. Anil Ambani - He will continue traveling in 'Lamborghini', only difference will be that he would be stealing 50% fuel from his brother Mukesh Ambani's Mercedes.

4. Abhishek Bachan - Will not much change in his lifestyle, he will continue riding on his dad's piggyback.

5. Ektaa Kapoor - She has decided to pay for the fuel but cutting salary payments of his daily-soap stars. Plus she has also decided that all her soap actress will be wearing 'Micro' clothes instead of lavish saris...this move is expected to increase the T.R.P rating her daily 'saas-bahu' dramas as well.

6. John Abraham - He has decided to sit on his 'Bike' and make 'Vroom..Vroooom' sound and think of Bipasha Basu, to get the feel of riding without wasting any fuel.

7. Karan Johar - For him the decision is easy...he will ride along in Shahrook's 'Tub', afterall 'Shahrukh hai na'.

8. Lalu Prasad Yadav - Has decided to back to his old days of riding on his pet 'Bulls' and 'Cows'.

9. Saurav Ganguly and Grey Chappal - They have been advised by the cricket board to travel together in one car, provided by the board. This will not only save fuel money for the two...but also help them solve their differences. Well this is what the Indian cricket is board is hoping, since they can't do anything themselves.

10. Farah Khan - Well she will try to fit herself in Shahrook's 'Tub'. If that attempt is unsuccessful, then her expertise of dancing on top of moving trains would come handy.

11. Salman Khan - He will continue with riding his 'Bicycle', since he is shown 'No Entry' sign wherever he goes.
posted at 9/30/2005 12:12:00 PM | comments (6) | permalink
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Importance of Marriage Certificate

My this post, compels me to ask a question "Is it too much to ask from a marriage a piece of paper, a marriage certificate?". It seems appalling that even after more than 50 years of Independence, we still do not have any compulsory legislation for the registration of marriages in India and we are still fighting for gender equality.

Beginning in the 19th century with Raja Ram Mohan Roy, there has been a concerted effort to bring an end on Sati, Child marriage, and Untouchability. The Constitution guaranteed women equality to women at par with men. Since India consists of a plural system of laws where four major communities have their religion based Personal laws, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Parsi.

After continous struggle and battle lead by great leaders, in 1955 series of laws were enacted which guaranteed certain rights to Hindu women like, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; the Hindu Succession Act, 1956; and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, Legislative measures like the Bombay Prevention of Hindu Bigamous Marriages Act, 1946, continued the process of reforms.

The above laws to some extent help Hindu women get over the obstructions imposed by the society, however there are certain aspects of these laws that desperatly need to changed keeping in mind the current societal practices. One of them, includes compulsory registration of marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act.

Currently Registration of marriages under Section 8 of Hindu Marriage Act (1955) states -

(1) For the purpose of facilitating the proof of Hindu marriages, the State Government may make rules providing that the parties to any such marriage may have the particulars relating to their marriage entered in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed in a Hindu Marriage Register kept for the purpose.

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the State Government may, if it is of opinion that it is necessary or expedient so to do, provide that the entering of the particulars referred to in sub-section (1) shall be compulsory in the State or in any part thereof, whether in all cases or in such cases as may be specified, and where any such direction has been issued, any person contravening any rule made in this behalf shall be punishable with fine which may extend to twenty-five rupees.

(3) All rules made under this section shall be laid before the State Legislature, as soon as may be, after they are made.

(4) The Hindu Marriage Register shall at all reasonable times be open for inspection, and shall be admissible as evidence of the statements therein contained and certified extracts therefrom shall, on application, be given by the Registrar on payment to him of the prescribed fee.

(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the validity of any Hindu marriage shall in no way be affected by the omission to make the entry.

In simple words it means, that there exists a provision for registration of marriages. And, it's left to the contracting parties to either solemnize the marriage before the sub-registrar or register it after performing the ceremony in conformity with Hindu beliefs. However, the Act makes the provision that the validity of the marriage will in no way be affected by omission to make the entry in the register.

On the other hand,

Under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, which is valid for any Indian citizen, irrespective of religion, each marriage is registered by marriage officers specially appointed for the purpose.

Registration of marriage is compulsory under the Indian Christian Marriages Act, 1872. Under the Act, entries are made in the marriage register of the church, soon after the ceremony, along with the signatures of the bridegroom, the bride, the officiating priest and witnesses.

Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 makes necessary Registration of Marriages.

In Muslim law, a marriage is regarded as a civil contract and the qazi, or officiating priest, also records the terms of the marriage in a nikahnama, which is handed over to the married couple.

Therefore only under the Hindu Personal Law it is not compulsory to register the marriage. However certain state governments, did impose compulsory marriage registration law inorder stop the crimes committed against women and children and aimed at giving legal status to wedlock and to strengthen the institution of marriage. For example -

- The Bombay Registration of Marriages Act, 1953. This Act applies to the States of Maharashtra and Gujarat
- The Karnataka Marriages Act, 1976 in force since 1983
- The Himachal Pradesh Registration of Marriage Act, 1997
- Andhra Pradesh passed the Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2002

But in September 2000, the Union government rejected the National Human Rights Commission's proposal for compulsory registration of Hindu marriages -- as had the Narasimha Rao government in 1994 and the Deve Gowda government in 1996.

Two major problems, arising from non-registeration of marriage under Hindu Marriage Act are as mentioned below :

The provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act on bigamy are admittedly faulty. So is Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code which deals with the offence of "marrying again during the life time of husband or wife". Both of them requires certain ceremonies to be performed for a marriage that is valid and binding. The ceremonies depend upon one's caste and religion. If they are not performed there is no marriage even between a couple who are entitled to marry. The same logic was applied to bigamous marriage. Non registration of marriage affect women the most. Women most prominently victims of bigamous relationships and property disputes face enormous hardship in establishing their marriage as they have no proof of marriage. It has been seen in number of cases of bigamy the wives are losing their cases by reason of their failure to prove the first or second marriage of their husbands.

Another serious national problem is Child marriage and it is estimated roughly a half of all marriages taking place in India in a year the girls are underaged. The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, prescribes the minimum age of 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys for contracting marriage, and "extends to the whole of India except the State of J&K and it applies also to all citizens of India without and beyond India." Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa, Chattisgargh, Jharkhand and Bihar, where child marriages are rampant, haven't moved towards compulsory registration.

Certain Advantages for the compulsory registration of marriages :

The certificate is a Government document, which provides valuable evidence of marriage.

It is useful while accompanying wife/husband to foreign country.

If a person dies without nomination for bank deposit or life insurance policy, it will be useful to get such money in the name of husband/wife.

Registration would prevent child marriages and thereby prevent sale of girls and trafficking.

Registrar will verify whether the marriage had in fact taken place in accordance with the personal law applicable to the spouses. He will specifically mention, in a special column, the presence of the spouses before issuance of marriage certificate.

It is suprising to note that, the Central Government has made it mandatory for all States to make compulsory birth registration and also asked to legislate for compulsory registration of marriages. The reasoning is that the States are in a better position to know the social structure and local conditions prevailing in the respective states.

Then applying the logic for mandatory birth registration why isn't the Central Government making marriage registration compulsory for the whole of India?

The only solution possible -

The National Commission for Women through The Marriage Bill, 1994 had recommended for the enactment of a uniform law relating to marriages and providing for the compulsory registration of marriages, with the aim of preventing child marriages and also polygamy in the society. This was a result of wide consultation and deliberation. Unfortunately, this and other recommendations have been forgotten.

The solution is to insist on regularisation of marriage and the ceremonies, will then be optional. The registrar will demand a signed declaration that neither party has a spouse living, something that will deter everyone. Political will is the need of the hour for such a law, which is extremely necessary to curb child marriages and bigamy. This law has to be made widely disseminated through all medium of communication.

It is amply clear that it is necessary to have a Uniform Civil Code and the state should act upon Article 44. A Uniform Civil Code will not take away religious ceremonies and rituals. It will empower women and children by giving protection and ensuring gender just laws. It is high time we had a nationwide debate over it and pass a law on Compulsory Registration of Marriage.

We have to take a holistic approach when we talk about crimes against women. There has to be an integrated approach to the marriage law, dowry law, divorce law, property rights, maintenance and child custody. We have to work together the people, the judiciary, the NGOs, the police, lawyers and National Commission for Women. Attitudinal change has to be brought out and last but not the least gender disparities removed from the cradle itself. Because laws will be meaningless if the social attitudes subjugating the girl are not removed.

Till such time that we change the social fabric of the society, dowry will survive in a greedy consumer and commoditised society where girls are battered and harassed and even killed for a motorcycle or a car.

(*Disclaimer - Above information has been collected from various sources.)

posted at 9/29/2005 01:07:00 PM | comments (12) | permalink
Degree in 'extraterrestrial' studies
Now this is something I would love to be a part of.....

The University of Glamorgan this week launched what it said was Britain's first undergraduate course in astrobiology, the search for extraterrestrial life.

About half a dozen people enrolled this week in the degree course, which will encompass topics like "Exploring the Sky," "Vertebrate Zoology," "Science and the Media," and "Life in the Universe", the university said.

Course leader Professor Mark Brake said there was massive interest in the topic. About 100 people in the local community are studying aspects of the subject.

Though the course will examine popular culture, including films like "ET," students will also study obscure texts, work in laboratories and conduct stargazing.
posted at 9/29/2005 12:10:00 PM | comments (2) | permalink
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
It pays to have the BIG GUYs on your side
Yesterday on my way home from work, I heard a certain radio commercial, which went like this...'an arrogant guy wants to enter a restaurant/bar but is stopped by the manager, since there is private party going on and entrance is on invitation basis only. The arrogant guy refuses to budge and starts taking names of certain influentional people (government officials) inorder to get entry. Finally, the manager gives in and allows the guy to enter. The ad ends with the tag-line 'IT PAYS TO HAVE THE BIG GUYS ON YOUR SIDE, WHO DO YOU HAVE?'.

It got me to thinking, about some of the incidents/events which I have personally seen or observed, which made me realize that the ad's tag-line stands so true. Once again it made me realize the implications of the extent of corruption that have come to occupy so much space in our society and it's menacing proportion which is threatening the very foundations of our society and State. According to me, even an act where people break certain rules/regulations without actually engaging in money/goods exchange, just on the basis of influential contacts could be defined as a corrupt behavior, which most of us indulge in pleasant or un-pleasant circumstances.

Here are some of the recent incidents from personal experience -

1. Just last week, a close family friend opened up a posh nightclub in one of the suburbs. Now according to the state rule, Mumbai night clubs have to shut down by 1.00 Am on week days. This rule is exempted for nightclubs that are based in 5 star hotels. Now I have seen quite a few clubs which have been raided by cops for being open beyond the allocated time. So this means that the cops are doing their job, well not exactly. The family friend's uncle is the DCP of Mumbai, which inturn means that the club has the indirect-authority stay open beyond 1.30 am for business.

Another example of the same can be given for club 'Vie' in Juhu. Mrs. Smita Thackarey is one of the five partners of the club, therefore Juhu station allows it to be open till 3.00 Am during week days.

2. I work in the garments manufacturing industry, till the beginning of this year we had 'Excise' rule imposed on us. Now every year, we had these excise government officials who would come to our factory to inspect the invoice and other official papers. Inorder to make them clear our company papers which would enable us to get some monetary refund of the 'excise' amount that we had paid to the government, we had to keep these guys happy. Mind you, not that we had done anything un-official or some ghapala and therefore were paying these guys to clear it for us. It's just that if you do not please them, they would simply remove un-necessary faults and thereby delay the entire process.

Now that the 'excise' rule has been lifted, these guys still come-over without any prior notice and take loads of garments from us for 'FREE' and we allow them do so because we never know, tomorrow the rule might be enforced again.

3. One of our senior sales guy is going thru a major crisis. The house he had purchased couple of months ago, turned out to be from bank loan taken by the previous owner. Now, the bank has issued a notice against our sales guy and threaten to take the house, since the previous owner has not paid the loan. To cut the long story short, we contacted the local police station and filed a criminal case against the previous owner. To take advantage of this situation, the head police officer keeps sending his man every second day to take some free clothing from our company. Some times, its trackpants for his wife and some times cricket set for his son.

We have to go along with this, otherwise the cops won't do their job. The previous owner happens to be a senior accountant at a MNC. So with the help of his boss's high influence seems to be getting away with murder here. However the fight and struggle is still on...wish us luck !

4. This event is the most painful and heart breaking for me and it occurs every damn year. Just before the local elections in the area where our company is located, the standing politicians will send their goons to collect 'chanda' which actually means 'hafta'. We have to pay them obscene amount, why because if we don't then we land-up suffering miserably. For example, these guys control most of the worker-unions. In many instances, these politicians don't give a hoot about the workers but sadly, the un-educated workers seem to take them as their messiah and see us as the bad guys. They have the power to bring middle-size company to a standstill by starting a 'strike'.

In an overly competitive garment industry, even a small-scale 'strike' could be the end of the company. This crime is just not limited to the elections, they keep coming around asking for 'chanda' at times for Ganesh festival, Diwali festival, Party meetings - it's an on-going process and we bear the brunt all year round.

In 1985, my dad did oppose to this injustice and filed a report against a certain politician. And what happened after that seemed just out of a commercial Bollywood movie. My dad was attacked by a mob on his way back from work in the middle of a busy traffic light. Luckily and thanks to the help of few passersby that my dad was saved. After that we received numerous kidnapping threats and murder threats. This did not stop my dad and finally the culprit was arrested but after few months was let loose again. During that time, my factory was shut down for nearly 6 months. I remember my dad and his few loyal staff would stay up late at night working, preparing court papers.

But today we cannot afford to take such risks, we were lucky to survive then BUT maybe this time we won't.

The above events portray two dimensions of corruption. One is the 'exploitative corruption' where the public servant exploits the helpless poor citizen. The other is 'collusive corruption' where the citizen corrupts the public servant by a bribe because he gets financially better benefits. Some how I feel,the growing State intervention in economic and social life has vastly increased the scope of corruption.

Today a person is giving importance more on the basis of 'who he knows' rather than 'what he does'. It's a sad reality that is stumped right in our face, every bloody day.The public at large has become cynical and tends to accept the evil as natural.

For your information :

The most corrupt departments are -

Central Government: Customs, Excise, Income Tax, Defence Procurement, Central PWD, Industries, and Railways.

State Governments: Commercial Taxes, Police, Regional Transport, Education, and Registration.
posted at 9/28/2005 11:47:00 AM | comments (7) | permalink
The Giant Squid
The giant squid can be found in books and in myths, but for the first time, a team of Japanese scientists has captured on film one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep-sea in its natural habitat.

Until now the only information about the behaviour of the creatures which measure up to 18 metres (59 feet) in length has been based on dead or dying squid washed up on shore or captured in commercial fishing nets.

But Tsunemi Kubodera, of the National Science Museum, and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association, both in Tokyo have captured the first images of Architeuthis attacking bait 900 metres (yards) below the surface in the cold, dark waters of the North Pacific.

"Up to now, giant squids were thought to be relatively sluggish squids that stay in deep waters without moving much ... But we found out that they move around pretty actively," Kubodera told Reuters in an interview.

Kubodera said he was particularly struck by the way the giant squid -- which was captured on film in a sequence of photographs taken every 30 seconds -- tangled its prey in its elongated feeding tentacles.

"It's probably almost exactly the same as the way giant snakes wrap up their prey ... with their bodies," said Kubodera as he stood before a mounted specimen of a separate giant squid displayed at the National Science Museum in the Japanese capital.

The Japanese scientists found the squid by following sperm whales, the most effective hunters of giant squid, as they gathered to feed between September and December in the deep waters off the coast of the Ogasawara Islands in the North Pacific.

Giant squid have long attracted human fascination, appearing in myths of the ancient Greeks, as well as Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Scientific interest in the animals has surged in recent years as more specimens have been caught in commercial fishing nets or found washed up on shores.
posted at 9/28/2005 11:05:00 AM | comments (3) | permalink
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Fight against the system
While the President of our neighbouring country went about accusing his country women of getting themselves raped just for mere abroad travel & citizenship, maybe it's time that someone put gun on his head and made him see the actual reasons behind the rapes and made him realise the plight and agony suffered by these women. Islam protects the rights of all individuals and rape by force is punishable by death in Islam yet incidents like these are happening one after another and that too on the orders of Jirgas and law enforcers in Pakistan. Most of the cases are taken up by media. Government usually tries to pacify the people by suspending few officials and making tribunals however, battle for justice proves to be very long and in most cases culprits get themselves free due to various loop holes in the system. Issues like these are usually handled by adhoc measures and conventional lethargic attitude.

We have heard brave stories of some Pakistani women such as Mukhtar Mai & Shazia Khalid, who decided to get up and fight against the corrupt system and make their voice heard around the globe, in the hope that if not them atleast the younger generation of Pakistani women would one day be in safe hands of a government that would look at them as humans and not just mere objects.

Another brave women, fighting against the system is Sonia Naz. The tale of Sonia Naz, the latest case of alleged gang-rape in Pakistan highlights the very fact of a growing willingness among many women in this devout Islamic country to report such crimes.

Sonia's ordeal began nearly six weeks ago in the industrial city of Faisalabad, about 200 km west of Lahore, when her husband, Asim, was arrested by police. Asim, a low-level clerk in the revenue department, was involved with nearly a dozen other officials in a corruption case. Most senior officials initially arrested were soon free. Asim, on the other hand, seems to have vanished - and while his family paid many bribes, and Sonia, expecting her second child at the time, repeatedly visited the police station - the young man was never located.

In despair, Sonia, in April of this year, turned up at the national assembly in the capital, Islamabad, leaving her two small children with her sister in Lahore. "I hoped to meet Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and tell him my story. I was certain he would help," she said. Sonia, barely educated and unaware of protocol, was accidentally waved forward by a security guard right into the chamber, where she took her place among the legislators. When her presence was noticed, the bewildered Sonia was dragged away by guards, taken to a police station and charged with breaking into the assembly.

After being released following pressure from journalists and rights activists, she was re-arrested in Lahore in May, where she says she was repeatedly raped, stripped naked, beaten and abused by her police captors, despite her pleas for mercy. After her story was published, the prime minister and President Pervez Musharraf swiftly intervened to order an inquiry and the suspension of Superintendent Khalid Abdullah and Inspector Jamshed Chishti of the Lahore police, allegedly involved in the sexual assault.

Sonia's case demonstrates a growing determination on the part of many Pakistani women to fight back against violence. The times when women, fearing social stigma, refused to report such crimes or were too scared and ashamed to do so seem to be changing. The HRCP (Human Rights Commission Pakistan) said it had details of more than 250 incidents of rape and gang-rape in the first six months of 2005 alone. The fact that the figures are significantly higher than in the same period of 2004 is put down to an increase in the reporting of such crimes by victims.

It's time that the General opened his eyes and mind and saw to it that the victims are given the full protection of the law and not ostracized, imprisoned or killed for staining family "honor".

(*Source - IRIN Asia)
posted at 9/27/2005 04:26:00 PM | comments (0) | permalink
Independant Women
It is often said that the status and position of women in society is the best way to understand a civilisation, its progress and its shortcomings. In case of India, women have come a long way from women sages and scholars in the Rig Vedic period to women in the armed forces, IT sector, politics , industry and other significant areas while balancing their role as a daughter, wife and mother. This journey towards modernization has not been easy.

Women have had to fight the traditional Indian male-dominated society to emerge as stronger and independent entities. While all these are positive developments, cases of rape, harassment at workplace and dowry deaths are rampant. Illiteracy and ignorance about their rights are still prevalent among a majority of the women. However there are some women, who defy all odds to stand up for themselves and make their presence felt.

Here are some of the ever-encouraging women, who make a positive role-model for all Indians.

1. Women behind Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad :

A women's organisation of the women, by the women and for the women. It was started in 1959 with 7 lady members with a borrowed sum of Rs. 80/- at Girgaum in Mumbai.
The turning point of this Institution was in 1966 when it was registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act 1950 and also registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860 and got recognition from Khadi & Village Industries Commission as a village industry.

The objective of the Institution is to provide employment to the ladies to enable them to earn decent and dignified livelihood. Any women who can render physical work in this Institution without distinction of caste, creed and colour and agrees to abide by the objective of the Institution can become a member of the Institution from the date on which she starts working.

Besides Lijjat Papad the Institution has other products like Khakhra, Masala, Wadi, Detergent Powder & Cakes, Bakery Products & Chapaties. At present it has 63 Branches & 40 Divisions and gives self-employment to about 40,000 sister members all over India with Sales turnover of Rs. 300 Crores which includes Rs. 12 Crores of Exports.Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad posted a turnover of over Rs 118 crore from the sale of papads alone in fiscal 2003-04.The co-operative posted a turnover of Rs 288.47 crore for the year ended March 2004.

"The success behind this large turnover is the hardwork of women working towards this," says Jyoti J Naik, president, Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad. This Institution, over the years, has paved the way for village women to become self-reliant and self-confident. Lijjat has provided them the right platform to improve their status in society.

2. Dr. Kiran Bedi :

Kiran Bedi is the first woman police officer (IPS) of India. She has set a glorious record in the various tasks assigned to her, and made a name for herself in a male dominated profession.
In July of 1972, she became the first female police officer in India when she joined the Indian Police Service. Her honesty drew attention, although it was not always appreciated.She was well aware that the police were often the biggest violators of human rights. Yet, she believed that it was the police who were in the best position to be the champion of human rights. She applied this philosophy in every stage of a career as a traffic cop, a narcotics officer, an anti-terrorist specialist, and an administrator. Bedi felt that the police should do more than just catch the bad guys and put them in jail. She saw her role as a police officer as an opportunity to help people, to show them the way to a better life.


The greatest challenge to her philosophy came in 1994 when she was promoted to the rank of Inspector General of Prisons and given the responsibility of managing the largest and most notorious prison in the Asia Pacific area. Tihar Prison held approximately 8,500 prisoners, mostly male. Besides her professional contributions, two voluntary organizations founded and supervised by her - Navjyoti, set up in 1988 and India Vision Foundation in 1994, reach out to thousands of poor children daily for primary education, women for adult literacy; provide vocational training and counseling services in the slums, rural areas and inside the prison apart from treatment for drug addiction. She and her organizations today stand nationally and internationally recognized, with the latest award being given by the United Nations - the Serge Sotiroff Memorial Award for drug abuse prevention.

Her greatest achievement may be the effect her achievements have had on Indian women who see Kiran Bedi as a role model and a hero. Bedi has shown them that with hard work and determination, they can overcome ancient stereotyping and make their dreams come true.

3. Shabnam Ara Begum

In a rare achievement, 26-year-old Shabnam Ara Begum has become India's first woman qazi. She is the Muslim marriage registrar and honorary qazi of Nandigram village in West Bengal's East Midnapore district, about 170 km from Kolkata, where, despite a few voices of protest, people have accepted her in this traditionally male position. Since her appointment in December 2003, Shabnam has conducted over 770 marriages. Apart from a small honorarium, she gets a minimum of Rs 100 for her efforts. This means that in 20 months, Shabnam earns nearly Rs 1 lakh -- a large sum for a villager, let alone a woman.

Shabnam's appointment did not go undisputed. Mozammel Hossein, a resident of Nandigram and claimant to the post, challenged her appointment in the Calcutta High Court saying: "There is no provision in the shariat for appointing a woman as qazi. Under Islamic law, women are not allowed to carry out tasks performed by men. All over the world, only men are qazis." He also pointed out that, at the time of her appointment, Shabnam was below 25 years-the minimum qualifying age for a qazi. The court however refused to interfere in the case and, on July 21, 2005, the matter was referred to the inspector general of registration (judiciary) for adjudication within three months.

The appointment of Shabnam Ara Begum as qazi - a cleric who can conduct a wedding ceremony - is being seen as a step towards the emancipation and empowerment of Muslim women.

4. Bachendri Pal

Bachendri Pal was the first Indian woman to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest, in 1984. She was independent and fearless, and first tasted the excitement of the high altitudes when a group of 12-year-old classmates climbed to 4000m (13123 feet) during a picnic, could not come down by nightfall, and spent the night there without food or shelter. At 13, like most Garhwal girls she was expected to leave school and help in the house, but she studied on her own at night until her determination impressed her family to let her finish high school. She still earned money by sewing in her spare time. The principal of her school persuaded her family to send her to college, where she beat both boys and girls in rifle shooting and other competitions. Her B.A. thrilled her parents, who wanted her to be the first girl in the village with a higher degree. She eventually an M.A. in Sanskrit and then a B.Ed. In spite of these achievements the job offers that came in were only for low-paid, temporary, junior-level positions, so Bachendri applied to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering for a course.

She was judged the best student in the course, and marked down as 'Everest material', much to her surprise. In an advanced camp at NIM in 1982, she climbed Gangotri I (6,672 m/ 21900 ft) and Rudugaira (5,819 m / 19091 ft). Her mentor was Brigadier Gyan Singh, director of the National Adventure Foundation, who set up an Adventure Club for young women to learn mountaineering skills. It also provided an instructor's job for Bachendri, whose family was under economic pressure. India's fourth expedition to Everest was scheduled for 1984, and only four women in the world had ever scaled the peak. The '84 team consisted of seven women and eleven men, and this was Bachendri Pal's first real expedition.

She is a member of the governing body of IMF, HMI, NIM, National Adventure Foundation, Vice Chairman of Seven Sister's Adventure Club, Uttar Kashi and All India Women's Judo and Karate Federation, and President of Lioness Club India. She is the Manager Adventure Programmes, Tata Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had presented the 1986 Ladies Study Group Award to her in recognition of her outstanding contribution in the field of Mountaineering. She has been awarded Padmashree, Arjuna Award, IMF Gold Medal, and cash award from U.P. Government and TISCO.

5. Mrs. Simone Tata

Simone Tata has several firsts to her name:the first businesswoman to introduce cosmetics to Indian consumers, the first businesswoman to start the practice of beauty salons in the country, the first to introduce a 100 per cent private label store in the country. She started India's first indigenous beauty company, Lakme, in 1962, and was appointed as its first MD in 1964 and also assumed its Chairmanship in 1982.

After she sold off Lakme to Hindustan Lever in 1996, she wasted no time in snapping up the Indian operations of Littlewoods, including the Bangalore store and sourcing operations. The aim was to create a national fashion retail chain that was to make good fashion available at affordable prices. Trent Ltd. is now an all-India chain of 'Westside' stores.

Simone Tata says she's looking at the possibility of introducing in-store labels in the lifestyle and home furnishing categories. Some of Westside's current clutch of brands include Gia for larger women, Stone River Classic for teens, Westsports sportswear and 2-fast-4-you for young men.

She is also the Chairman of the Sir Ratan Tata Institute and a Trustee of Children of the World (India) Trust, Bombay. She was awarded the Udyog Ratan Award in 1988, designated as 'a Woman of Decade'.

6. Mrs. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

She can be easily considered India's bio-tech queen and the richest woman in the country. This bold, enterprising and assertive woman entrepreneur best personifies the changing face of the Indian Woman. A woman with a fiery ambition, deep-rooted confidence and staunch foresight, her aim was to build a world-class institution using India's own scientific talent. Her multi billion dollar, Biocon India Ltd. has successfully come a long way from the little operation that it was in 1978.

Today she heads the leading biotech firm in India, Biocon India Ltd., a company that has evolved from a maker of enzymes to a major pharmaceutical enterprise producing everything from insulin to antibodies. When the company went public in March of this year, its shares were oversubscribed by 33 times on opening day, and it now has a total stock-market value of $1.2 billion.

In 2001, her firm was singled out as a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer. Biocon has a string of successes to its credit: It is the country's first biotechnology company to export microbial enzymes to the US and Europe, and to receive ISO 9001 certification. Her strong vision combined with her keen aptitude for innovativeness has helped to transform Biocon into one of the leaders in India's biotech industry and her aim is to 'make Biocon one of the world's top-five biotech companies in the not-too-distant future'.

There are many more women such as Barkha Dutt (Journalist),Sarah Joseph(Writer), Anju Bobby George (Athlete), Sania Mirza (Tennis), Arundhati Roy (Writer and Social Activist), who have done India and Indian Woman proud with their achievements as dynamic Leaders. They have helped in some way or the other to put India on the global map, for being such strong inspiration.

(*Disclaimer - the above information has been complied with the help of various sources.)

Even in our Desi Blog world, there are many women who seem to inspire us in many ways. Some of my favourites and who are well-known and need no introduction -

1. Sonia Falerio (Colour of Water) : Brings news without creating Telhalka. Simply direct and upfront coverage of events...no room for any alterations.

2. Uma (Indian Writing & Animal Rights India) : If you wanna know about books, this is a must blog. Touching write-ups about daily life or events, on the other hand manages another blog concerning Animal welfare issues and stories.

3. Sujatha (Blogpourri) : A mom, an ex-lawyer, a writer and a brand new radio jockey. Beautiful essay like stories about every-day life. Comes up with simple topics but immense meaning.

posted at 9/27/2005 11:01:00 AM | comments (12) | permalink
End to 'exotic species' Down Under
Australians are facing a gruesome quandary - they will have to kill millions of "exotic" non-native animals or allow those animals to destroy Australia's unique native species.

Millions of animals -- from camels to cane toads, horses and foxes -- face extermination in Australia under recommendations by a parliamentary committee.

A population explosion of species introduced to this isolated continent since European settlement began more than 200 years ago is a growing threat to agriculture and native wildlife, the committee of inquiry has found.

"The exotic species need to be eradicated," committee chairman Alby Schultz told AFP. "That's the first point I make."

Shooting and poisoning would be among methods recommended by the committee, which has been investigating the problem for more than a year and will present its report to parliament by early November, he said.

The Department of the Environment lists animals of "significant concern" as including feral camels (500,000), horses (300,000), donkeys (five million), pigs (up to 23 million), cane toads, European wild rabbits, European red foxes, cats and goats.
posted at 9/27/2005 10:03:00 AM | comments (0) | permalink
Monday, September 26, 2005
It's the time to disco...
This weekend turned out to be pretty interesting for me..why ? well because it has given me the inspiration for my new list. On Saturday night, i went clubbing with couple of my friends to a pretty well-known nightspot in the suburbs. The place was packed, when we reached there..thats around 10.30 pm. Now the sad bit is..when most of your friends are couples...and you the only single one..things tend to get boreing after a while. Not to get things wrong..my friends are great and made sure many a times that i wasn't feeling left out.

Anyways the on and off free time, gave me the chance to notice certain individuals that i am sure most of you have seen, met and can relate to in the every desi club context.


So without any further delay guys....come on 'let's do the cha cha chaa'

Mr. Popular

Usually comes with his 3-5 chamchas
The leader of the pack
Mostly a regular to the club, since he knows the bar-tender on first name basis
Definitely has a good time out, thanks to 'Papa' dearest's moolah
Makes sure to keep his gang happy by paying for their drinks and meal
Mostly stands at the bar with his groupies and checks out the women

The Body-Builder

Has a good body and wants everyone around him to acknowledge it
Wears mostly bodyfit t-shirts and singlets
Dance step mostly involve flexing his muscle
He is bound to make even Sanjay Dutt look like Parbhudeva thanks to his dancing skillsDesperately needs to carry a deodorant for humanity sake...its simply unbearable if you happen to be dancing next to him when he's got his hands swaying in the air...while you are bearing the brunt of his exposed arm pit

Ms.Lolita

Gushing young women with good looks and hot body
High maintenance evident from extravagant dressing style
Will only be seen at trendiest and happing venues
90% chances of having a boyfriend
Her daddy always told her she was a princess and she expects to be treated like one
Needs to be the constant center of attention no matter what
Dances all night long and expects her boyfriend to do the same

Eagle-eyed Uncle

He's just a big over grown kid – and not in the good way
Busy checking out every single girl/women in the club when the wife is not looking
Pretends to be having a good time with wifey while lusting over someone else
Firmly believes 'abhi to mein jawan hoon'
Always on the move on the dance floor hoping to be hit by any women other than his wife

Raging Hormones

This category belongs to young high-school newly in-love couples
Rarely get any opportunity to get up & close with their partners during the day therefore they seem to make most of their night out together
They tend to occupy the darkest corners on the dance floor or the dinning section
Not at all interested in dinning and dancing, prefer to keep themselves busy with coochy-cooying with one another

Hate it when they do it on the dance floor....they desperately need to get a room

Spandex Aunty

Yes, besides the gym they make their present felt here too
Not a pretty sight to look at..need to loose atleast 75 pounds before they try to fit themselves in those short dresses or tight pants
They follow the same rule here too i.e. the dress should fit the body and not the other way round

Vamp

She has incredible looks, uses excessive red lipstick and has long bright nails
She actually looks like a vampire and seems to possess those qualities too
You can spot her miles away because she flirts with anything in pants
Believes in flaunting her sexuality at every opportunity with her dancing style
Surely by the end of the night she would have sucked out everything from her victim – money, strength, illusions and sperm.

Stage Hogs/Disco Dancers

They always want to be center of attention.
Will be heard talking excessively loud…yes even in the night club you can hear them
Wild gesturing
Provocative outfits
First ones to dance on the broad panels next to the DJ booth or the bar table
Usually the last ones to leave

Addicts

They come here only to booze
Some more booze
More booze and booze
Finally a seriously sick hang-over



That's it guys...this is all the time I got that night…once they started playing 'It's the time to Disco', I looked at my watch and realized that it was my time to khisco from the club. I am sure there are many more varieties..maybe you can give your views & experience in the comments section.

(ps..for your info I have not mentioned the category that I fall under in this post, kindly refrain from asking me...)

posted at 9/26/2005 05:52:00 PM | comments (2) | permalink
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Slogans for these big guns....
In the continuing mental process of sorting, storing and discarding, there is a tendency to reduce conceptual thought to its simplest form. Within the functions of memory, the slogan acts as a handle. It is a mnemonically structured device which is a conscious or unconscious effort to hook into the reader's subconscious. Used effectively, it can succeed as no other single element in advertising can. It is the only aspect of an advertisement which has the chance of becoming a contemporary figure of speech or part of everyday speech patterns. Its success, and the resultant realized dream of becoming a household word, is usually accomplished by repetition, regardless of correct grammar or even of questionable benefits or common sense.

Now the above is what i learnt during my Bachelors in Business (marketing) degree at UWS, Australia. The reason why i am quoting the above is because i have come up with a list of slogans for certain entities. Most of you may consider this, as my lamest list till date....but yaar...pls understand that i am running low on ideas which is in-turn effecting my creativity. But i am compelled to put up a list since i am a self-confessed List-a-holic.

Maybe..you could suggest a few List ideas in the comments section.

Anywaz...here is the Slogan List :

1. Indian Cricket Team - 'Future's Grim, the Future's Black'.

2. BJP + RSS alliance - 'Its fun to play together'.

3. Microsoft Corp. - 'How much are you going to pay today?'

4. Indian Airlines - 'Join our frequent near-miss program, NOW !'

5. Shaadi.Com - 'With you always, thru Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage'.

6. Red Bull energy drink - 'Forever Zombie'.

7. Reliance Group of Industries - 'Mere babuji ka sapna, karo paraya maal apna'.

8. Lux Soap (after Shahrook ad) - 'Because he's worth it'.

9. American Army Recruitment Agency - 'Join the army ! travel the world, meet interesting people, and kill them'.

10. Manish Malhotra Creations - 'Creativity is great, but plagiarism is faster'.

11. Mumbai Roads - 'You never learn to swear, until you ride here'.

12. Mumbai Police - 'We would like to help you out. Which way did you come in?'

13. Cricket Betting Association - 'A bar girl a day helps you work, rest and play'.

(Disclaimer : for the ones who think the list doesnot make sense, kindly refer to paragraph 1.)
posted at 9/24/2005 01:28:00 PM | comments (3) | permalink
STOP killing our tigers !!
We, Indians are facing a bizarre and rather unbelievable situation. We, because of our selfish nature are on the verge of virtually making extinct the last of the big cats in the wild. Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and United Nations organisation binds India to rules that prevent trade in endangered species. The assault on the tiger in India, due to a breakdown of forest management and corruption, can compel CITES into taking action against India as per the rules of this UN arm. CITES has the authority to impose trade sanctions on a member-country that has not adhered to the norms that govern this body. That is how important tiger protection is. However it still doesnot seem IMPORTANT enough for the Indian ministries and officials.

Today's Telegraph newspaper gives us proof of another very unpleasant & horrifying news -

The Indian tiger is heading rapidly towards extinction, thanks to a new breed of wealthy Tibetans who prize the skins as trimming for their traditional costumes, an investigation has shown. Hearing rumours that the new Tibetan trend for skins was behind the rapid increase in poaching, a team from the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) went to Tibet and the Sichuan and Gansu provinces in China.

At horse festivals in Tibet and Sichuan, dancers, riders and spectators wandered about, openly wearing the traditional chuba, generously trimmed with tiger and leopard skin, while organisers and local officials joined in.Traders said the demand for the skins was coming from the newly-moneyed classes who had made small fortunes from selling a local caterpillar fungus used in Chinese medicine.

The skins are smuggled along well-established Nepali trading routes into Tibet where they are sold openly in shops in capital Lhasa. Wildlife experts accuse the Indian and Chinese governments of seriously underestimating the scale of the problem and, through a mixture of corruption and bureaucratic inertia, failing to address it.

Complete story here....

India has the largest tiger population in the world. However, the tiger population has fallen to 3,500 (according to the 2002 tiger census) from around 4,300 just 11 years ago. Poaching is believed to the main reason behind the decline in tiger numbers in Sariska and other Indian tiger reserves. In 2004, the tiger count for the state was 65, including 47 in Ranthambore, 18 in Sariska and one tiger in the Bharatpur reserve. However, today there are only 29 tigers left in Rajasthan's famous Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and 'No' tigers in Sariska, according to the latest official census.The tacit or active participation of wildlife authorities and park staff is also suspected.

Environmentalists confirm that the menace of poaching is very virulent across Asia and there is a decline in tiger populations in most countries, whether it is Laos, Myanmar (Burma) or Cambodia. Tigers are becoming virtually extinct in many of these countries.

According to many nature conversation societies, there seems to be a serious problem with the way tiger conservation is handled. Institutions and officials responsible are not doing their jobs, which has resulted in faulty plan implementations. It is important that Sanctuaries have specialised management.
The worst problem however is the rise in demand for the tiger skin in West Asia. In October 2004, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reported the existence of well-organised syndicates trafficking tiger and leopard skins between India, Nepal, Tibet and China. In October 2003, customs officials in Tibet intercepted a record haul of 31 tiger skins and 581 leopard skins being trucked to the capital Lhasa.

It's high time that the Indian government and the people realise that saving the tiger is a precious goal because it involves saving the entire ecosystem. The tiger is the apex predator. If the tiger has to survive, the entire forest has to be healthy. Hence, focusing on the tiger actually achieves much more than merely ensuring the survival of one species.

Important Links -

Here is a book extract from 'THE LAST WILD TIGERS' by Peter Matthiessen, a must read for all the wild-life lovers.

Homepage of 'Project Tiger', which was formed in 1972 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was launched on the 1st April 1973 at Corbett National Park. It's aims were, to ensure maintenance of a viable population of tigers in India for scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values. To preserve, for all times, areas of such biological importance as a national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people.

Homepage of Indian Tiger Welfare Society

*UPDATE

Another article on Tiger Poaching in today's TOI.

"Unlike in elephant poaching, where the poacher leaves behind the carcass, the tiger poacher takes away the entire body and leaves nothing behind,"Biswajit Mohanty of the Wildlife Society of Orissa said, highlighting why tiger poaching isn't always easy to detect.

"Because right from its skin to nails, eyes, toes, teeth, tail, everything is sold. There were seven cases of leopards and tiger seizures in the last four months in Orissa but no poaching cases were registered," he said.

According to Wildlife Trust of India vice-chairman Ashok Kumar, who has moved a PIL in the Supreme Court challenging official Simlipal tiger figures, "The number of tigers is not more than 30 as per our information. It is true that there are plenty of water bodies in the sanctuary and it is also a dense forest. But as per our information, professional poachers are very much active in Simlipal. We have also moved a PIL in the Supreme Court, saying the number has dwindled to 30."
posted at 9/24/2005 10:23:00 AM | comments (4) | permalink
Friday, September 23, 2005
Is this fun ??
Read this story in today's Mid-Day...and it makes me sick. Where has the humanity in today's youth gone??

Two youngsters driving a Fiat Palio whipped out their new air gun and fired at two street dogs who were asleep, grievously injuring them, and sped away laughing. The incident occurred late in the night on September 21, outside Goa Bhavan, JVPD Scheme, Juhu.

Sushma Borkar, an animal lover from the area, who has been feeding the dogs for the last three years, rushed the animals to the Andheri-based Karuna Foundation, where a surgery was performed on the dogs. "I am sure that this was done deliberately - a cheap prank by a rich man's son." Borkar added that she had got the dogs vaccinated and sterilised earlier.

Arvind Shah, animal welfare officer from Karuna told Mid Day, "Both the dogs are in a critical condition. One dog had to have a major surgery as the bullet had perforated the windpipe. It is unbelievably cruel that they were shot at."

Complete article, here...
posted at 9/23/2005 02:15:00 PM | comments (2) | permalink
Fulla : A different kind of Barbie
Barbie dolls have flown off the shelves in Middle Eastern countries. No, the dolls aren't going into the hands of eager consumers, they're being shipped back to Mattell. Barbie's Middle-Eastern counterpart, Fulla is far more popular than the glamorous Barbie.

Fulla roughly shares Barbie's size and proportions, but steps out of her shiny pink box wearing a black abaya and matching head scarf. She is named after a type of jasmine that grows in the Levant, and although she has an extensive and beautiful wardrobe (sold separately, of course), Fulla is usually displayed wearing her modest "outdoor fashion."Young girls here are obsessed with Fulla, and conservative parents who would not dream of buying Barbies for their daughters seem happy to pay for a modest doll who has her own tiny prayer rug, in pink felt. Children who want to dress like their dolls can buy a matching, girl-size prayer rug and cotton scarf set, all in pink.

Fulla is marketed just like American toys, with cartoons, games, and product tie-ins galore. However, some people don't see Fulla as the positive influence she is marketed as.

Maan Abdul Salam, a Syrian women's rights advocate, said Fulla was emblematic of a trend toward Islamic conservatism sweeping the Middle East. Though statistics are hard to come by, he said, the percentage of young Arab women who wear the hijab is far higher now than it was a decade ago, and though many girls are wearing it by choice, others are being pressured to do so.

"If this doll had come out 10 years ago, I don't think it would have been very popular," he said. "Fulla is part of this great cultural shift."

Fatima Ghayeh, who at 15 is a few years past playing with dolls herself, said she felt "sad that no one plays with Barbie anymore." But, pressed for further explanation, Ms. Ghayeh, dressed in a white hijab and ankle-length khaki coat, appeared to change her mind.

"My friends and I loved Barbie more than anything," she said. "But maybe it's good that girls have Fulla now. If the girls put scarves on their dolls when they're young, it might make it easier when their time comes. Sometimes it is difficult for girls to put on the hijab. They feel it is the end of childhood. Fulla shows girls that the hijab is a normal part of a woman's life."

But Jyza Sybai , a lanky, tomboyish Saudi 10-year-old, visiting Syria with her family for a short vacation, disagreed. "All my friends have Fulla now, but I still like Barbie the best," Jyza said. "She has blond hair and cool clothes. Every single girl in Saudi looks like Fulla, with the dark hair and the black scarf.

"What's so special about that?"

It is important to note...

Mattel markets a group of collectors' dolls that include a Moroccan Barbie and a doll called Leila, intended to represent a Muslim slave girl in an Ottoman court. In Iran, toy shops sell a veiled doll called Sara. A Michigan-based company markets a veiled doll called Razanne, selling primarily to Muslims in the United States and Britain.

What makes her more appealing than Barbie ?

"This isn't just about putting the hijab on a Barbie doll," Mr. Abidin(Fulla's brand manager) said. "You have to create a character that parents and children will want to relate to. Our advertising is full of positive messages about Fulla's character. She's honest, loving, and caring, and she respects her father and mother."

I some-what dont agree with Mr. Abidin's explanation. I mean, just because Barbie has a boyfriend and she wears western outfit doesn't mean that she is not honest, loving, caring and doesnot respect her family.

Its just a doll....let the kids enjoy.

Complete story here....

UPDATE :

Talk about hypocrisy....

'Jalila' is becoming one of the most popular female super-hero comic character in the Middle East. According to AK Comics (creator and publisher of middle-east superheros) their goal is to fill the cultural and social gap that was created over the years between the West and East, by providing essentially needed role models. Furthermore these heroes are predestined to become global ambassadors, spreading peace and good will, creating a more optimistic and positive image of the world's most turbulent and misunderstood region; The Middle East!

If you look at 'Jalila', she is wearing a low-cleavege vest and tight body-fiiting suit. Now isin't this against the Saudi culture?? But according to the sources..she is bridging the gap between West and East...from the Middle East point of view.

Well...isn't then 'Barbie' bridging the same gap...from the Western World point of view??

Know more about Middle East super-heroes, here...
posted at 9/23/2005 12:36:00 PM | comments (1) | permalink
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Fight against child marriages in India
Marriage in India is illegal under the ages of 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Any marriage of a person younger than this is banned in India under the Child Marriage Prevention Act of 1929. But the practice of child-marriages is still prevalent in many parts of rural India, particularly in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. Few marriages in India are formally registered, religious ceremonies are regarded as socially if not legally binding, even if the people concerned are mere innocent kids. Kids who are forced to grow-up and take care of responsibilities that come along with marriage.

I am 25 years of age, for me the word 'marriage' still gives jitters, I simply can't even imagine the plight of these young girls who are forced by their parents into marriage just for the sake-off few old customs and traditions. Couple of days ago a saw a special report covered by NDTV, about a girl who fought all the odds and made an example of her victory for other girls in similar situation to follow.

Chenugapalli Susheela from Ranga Reddy district in Andhra Pradesh got married at the age of 12. It took a six-month-long battle, for her two-year marriage to her teenage husband annulled to pursue her dream of getting an education. The reason why the case is even more significant is because Susheela is a dalit, a low-caste. Dalits traditionally stay uneducated and often suffer serious human rights abuses. In the extremely backward region of Telengana, where Susheela comes from, child marriage, though illegal, is widespread.

Susheela pleaded to her parents that her husbands would get drunk her and beat her up infront of the village people and no one would come to her rescue. She also claimed that her husband was having an affair with other women. Finally the parents gave in and took her home 6 months ago.

A council of village elders agreed to grant Susheela an annulment after she went to the police, threatened to commit suicide and enlisted the help of a child protection organisation--the M Ventaramaiah Foundation. After granting her a 'divorce', under the watchful eye of the media, the police, local revenue officials and members of the MV Foundation, the council ordered her husband to return any valuables, including gold and money, he may have received as dowry.

Dalit parents often marry their daughters off early to protect them from the advances of upper caste men. "Our womenfolk are always insecure as the feudal culture of the Reddy farmers (the landed gentry in Telengana) continues even today," says Venkaiah, Susheela's father. He admits that he shouldn't have married his daughter off without her consent.

The MV Foundation has promised to help Susheela pursue her dreams of getting an education. "We are trying to put children in school. As part of the effort we have stopped several child marriages. But they are still happening because the administration is not very sensitive and proactive on this issue," says Rajendra Prasad, coordinator, M V Foundation.

Susheela's act of defiance has inspired her friends Mayina and Archana, as well as four other child brides, to walk out of their respective marriages too. Child marriage is common in this part of Andhra Pradesh, as it is in Madhya Pradesh's Dhar district where child marriage activist Shakuntala Verma was attacked for protesting against the custom.

What shocks me is that the reason often given in support of child marriages, is that it protect the girl from other men who, once she is married, may see her as being unavailable and belonging to someone else. Child marriages give the impression that, like sati, women and girls are seen as property that 'belongs' to someone - her family, her husband, her in-laws. A woman/girl is either a burden or can be 'traded' and used in any way the others see fit. If her marriage is left too late, it may mean that no one wants her and then she will be seen as being not valuable and no one will want to marry her (its horrifying that even in big cities and among educated families this is believed). She is a burden to her own family because she is an extra mouth to feed and they have to find money to spend on her dowry. Her only role in life is to do housework and to bear children.

In any case, child marriages are worse for girls than for boys, since the girls are usually younger than the boys. Marriage also puts an end to any education girls may have been receiving. And if they get pregnant while still young, their health gets much worse since their bodies are often not ready to bear children. According to the United Nations, maternal mortality i(which indicates the number of women dying in childbirth or from pregnanct-related causes) is 25 times higher for girls under 15, and two times higher for 15-19-year-olds.

To stop such child marriages, governments and civil society organisations are trying to get laws against child marriage made stronger, since it does not seem to be working in its present state. Right now the police cannot make arrests without applying for a magistrate's order, which may take days. The punishment, a maximum of three months in prison, and a fine is not enough to stop people.

Proposed changes include more punishment, a compulsory registration of all marriages rather than just religious rites, the appointment of anti-child marriage officers in every state, and making it a law that anyone who attends a child marriage has to report it.

History and reasons behind child marriages in India, have a look here...

UPDATE :

Came across this very interesting article...a must read.

The government appears unwilling to crack down on the practice with any great energy, however, and its ambivalence toward the issue is echoed with equal lethargy at every level.

"People have never taken this issue very seriously," said Jaya Sagade, the author of "Child Marriage in India," published this year by Oxford University Press. "No political party has taken proper action against it; neither has anyone in the legal fraternity.

There's a sense that it won't be possible to uproot such an entrenched custom."

The law itself is weak. Parents can theoretically be sentenced to three months' imprisonment, but they very rarely are; a survey in 2001 found that there were never more than 89 attempted prosecutions across India in any one year.

The police do not have the authority to arrest anyone about to take part in a marriage, and the bureaucracy involved in preventing one is so complicated that most weddings have already gone ahead by the time the papers are ready.

posted at 9/22/2005 01:47:00 PM | comments (14) | permalink
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
The Great Indian Witch-Hunt
Yesterday i saw the special screening of "The Great Indian Witch Hunt", an award winning documentary film hosted by noted playwright, writer and actress Sohaila Kapur (sister of director Shekhar Kapur) and directed by Filmmaker Rakhi Varma. It was part of the 12 episode series "It happens only in India" launched by The National Geographic channel from September 18, with each episode focusing on an aspect of "real India" hitherto unexplored in detail.

Here is a report on the film :

"The great Indian witch hunt" explores possible causes of single and widowed women accused of being witches and their ostracism from the society sometimes with terrible consequences. Set in Jharkhand, this episode concentrates on a gory end to a woman named Mania Mardi who is killed by her nephew Gurudeo because he believed she was a witch who had brought on the death of his father and brother.

In the early part of the narrative, Varma interviews so-called witches who have been tortured by villagers and even forced to eat human excreta. She focuses on the activities of Baba Ramashankar who claims to have supernatural powers that can bring about the death and destruction of anyone he should choose to cast his fury upon.

For the murder trial, Varma uses journalist and author Sohaila Kapoor to conduct an on-camera inquiry of sorts that questions Gurudeo's real motives and arrives at the conclusion that he had wrongly assumed that his relatives had died as a result of a spell. Medical records showed they had contracted tuberculosis.

Witch hunting is a huge issue in many Indian states. The filmmaker chose Jharkhand because of the 500 or more cases of witch hunting reported there in the '90s. The film unfolds a disturbing trend and tries to find out the factual reasons that led to the killing of women after branding them witches. In most cases, the brutal acts were the fallout of property disputes or were instigated by witch doctors. However the film fails to give its viewers any conclusive evidence that 'Black Magic' really exists.

Ms. Verma concludes her story in a philosphical way by saying "Black magic like miracles, falls in the realm of what cannot be proved...it's a matter of faith".

The most horrific part of the film, according to me is the part showcasing 'Baba Ramashankar's rituals'. In the middle of a full moon night, Baba Ramashankar and his three women accomplices chant a heady mantra. They are all witches, initiated into the art of using their powers to save or to destroy through the benevolence of the one they worship -- the dain(witch). As the chanting reaches a crescendo, Baba begins to dance around the fire with a live goat kid hanging by his teeth. In the next scene, he has a chicken in his mouth, the neck of which he snaps with his teeth. After some time, everyone appears to be suspended in a psychological state that is far beyond the ordinary. Then comes a sexual orgy. According to the Baba, sexual intercourse is a necessaity inorder for him to complete his ritual and thereby please his goddess who inturn gifts him his holy powers.

The film makes you realise that for these people 'the belief in black magic is far more than their belief in magic itself'.

More on the film and the director, here....


Some facts about Witch-hunt in India

In the interiors of states like Bihar and West Bengal, 'witches' or 'dains' and their children are still hunted and killed. Witch-hunting is one of the least talked-about acts of violence. The murder of individuals and entire families accused of witchcraft is common in other states too, such as Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

From 1991 to 2000, over 522 cases of witch-hunting have been registered in Bihar alone.

Main reasons for many of these accusations of witchcraft are socio-economic factors such as land-grabbing, property disputes, personal rivalry and resistance to sexual advances.

In many cases, a woman who inherits land from her deceased husband is asked to disown the land by her husband's family or other men. If she resists, they approach the Ojhas (traditional village doctors) and bribe them to brand her a witch.

The strategy of branding a woman a witch is also used against women who spurn the sexual advances of the powerful men in the community.

The Free Legal Aid Committee (FLAC), based in the new state of Jharkhand has started a campaign against witch-hunting. They provide, egal support to the victims, awareness and legal literacy through streetplays and publications, raising the issue at legal and human rights fora, and the formulation of laws and amendments. Their efforts prompted the state of Bihar to pass the Anti-Witch Hunting Act in 1999.

(Disclaimer - above information was obtained from here)


A very interesting article written by Brinda Karat, focuses on some of the Issues In The Struggle Against Witch-Hunting.
posted at 9/20/2005 12:18:00 PM | comments (6) | permalink
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